Even though the usual favorites should be a force in Harford County girls volleyball, they won't stay on top without a challenge from a few up-and-coming teams this year.
Despite losing nine seniors from last year's county championship squad, C. Milton Wright (15-1) is still viewed as the girls team to beat by area coaches. The Mustangs have five seniors returning and two juniors, Deanna Drecchio and Tara Greenwood, who have a lot of hitting potential.
Bel Air (10-4), last year's county runner-up, returns with its main offensive threat in Amy Finlayson (126 points) and front-line veteran Kristi Meisler. The Bobcats only lost two players to graduation and shouldfinish near the top.
Aberdeen (2-12) and Edgewood (11-4) both have a lot of depth and experience and are also in contention for the county title.
The Eagles have second-team All-County selection Marika Krejci and junior Shawna Staten, who at 6 feet tall will be the team's major threat at the net.
The Rams are going to be tough behind their traditionally strong serving. Seniors Melissa Marcicola, Dawn Rose and Anne Kelley served at 85 percent or better and combined for 116 aces last season.
Fallston (10-7), which finished second in the region to Owings Mills last year, lost seven of its starters but has a strong foundation of promising juniors returning. North Harford (6-9), which had a preseason win over Cecil County's Rising Sun, shows promise with nine players returning.
In boys volleyball, John Carroll and C. Milton Wright should once again duel for the county title. The Patriots (10-0) beat the Mustangs (14-1) in the championship match last season.
The Mustangs are a senior-laden squad with a lot of height and consistent hitters. To their advantage, they also have four freshmen and two sophomores adding depth.
The Patriots lost two All-County selections -- 6-7 hitter Ric Abercrombie and setter Phil Kim -- but return with equally formidable hitters in Chris and Mike Dabiak, Jeff Pryor and Dan Gradishar. Hitting will not be John Carroll's only advantage, with sophomores Jason Hellman, Tim DeCapite and Paul Saymuk adding depth to the defense.
North Harford (8-5) has potential to trouble some teams this year with sophomore Steve Shaw's persistent backcourt play and a stronger offense behind the hitting of junior Eric Hall.
Edgewood (5-7) lost county Player of the Year Joe Chircio, but returns four steady players and could surprise some teams.